The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/5/17 Trump responds to London Attacks
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 5, 2017
Guest: Laura Kennedy, Neal Katyal
JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: All right. Thank you for joining us as well,
those of you at home.
Rachel is still under the weather, but she did tell us today that she is
just itching to get back into this chair and hopes to be back very soon.
We`ve got a big show for you, including a story that broke late this
afternoon involving the leak of a top secret document. We`ll have more on
that in just a bit.
But first, let me take you back to July of 1974. Just one month before
President Richard Nixon resigned from office. The White House was in
turmoil, the Nixon administration was reeling from the months-long
Watergate scandal. President Nixon was on his way out the door and his
defense secretary started to get worried that Nixon might try something.
He was worried about what might happen if the president decided to subvert
the Constitution to try and stay in power even as everything around him was
falling apart, by using the power of the presidency to call up the military
to protect him, or God forbid if he tried to authorize the use of nuclear
weapons without consulting anyone first.
Now, the story as told to writer Seymour Hirsch years later is that Nixon`s
defense secretary overwhelmed by this possibility tried to prevent anything
like that from happening by going behind Nixon`s his back to the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to the report, quote: In essence,
the defense secretary asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs for a
commitment that neither he nor any of the other chiefs would respond to an
order from the White House calling for the use of military force without
immediately informing the defense secretary.
Nixon`s Defense Secretary James Schlesinger reportedly asked the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quote: Don`t take any emergency type action
without consulting me.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were uncomfortable with this request. They
reportedly all looked down at their finger nails and sat in complete shock.
They could not believe what they were hearing.
In fact, the general consensus in the room was that the secretary of
defense, quote, was becoming unglued.
And there`s been a lot of debate over the years over whether Nixon
secretary of defense was overstepping his role, whether there was just an
opportunity to take advantage of a president in a weakened state. But
President Nixon`s defense secretary was adamant. Quote: First protect the
country, and then the Department of Defense.
It`s that kind of sentiment that country first before my job sentiment that
nowadays would probably come as a relief to many, especially after a
weekend in which the president has made a number of surprisingly bizarre
decisions related to our country`s standing in the international community.
For example, his knee-jerk response to the terrorist attack in London this
weekend was to denigrate the mayor of London, misquoting the mayor`s
entreaties for calm and heightened police presence and calling the mayor`s
actual words a, quote, pathetic excuse.
Trump`s near immediate response to the attack was to stoke fear in an
attempt to revive the old travel ban that he since modified and we`ll be
getting to that later on in the show.
This comes just a few days after Trump shocked even some of his own aides
by going through with his vow to break with the international community on
the matter of climate change, pulling the United States out of an almost
worldwide climate policy accord and putting us in the lone company of
Nicaragua and Syria in our refusal to comply with it.
Now, we`re already dealing with the consequences of that decision from
around the world and even within our own country. And sources tell CNN
tonight that the acting ambassador to China has resigned from his post over
Trump`s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord.
And as long as Trump continues to delay filling those ambassadorships
around the world, he really can`t afford to lose these career diplomats and
keeping their seats warm in the meantime. And this is all unfolding after
his major trip abroad in which he hurt our standing with the international
community in ways that have yet to be measured, with his awkwardness around
our European allies and by refusing to explicitly reaffirm our commitment
to NATO`s Article 5, which states an attack on one country in NATO is an
attack on all countries in NATO.
And despite his campaign rhetoric, Trump had been expected to reaffirm that
commitment to NATO. And now, we know he took not only the international
community by surprise when he decided not to, but that his own top national
security officials were surprised as well.
According to “Politico” today, quote: National Security Adviser H.R.
McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson all supported Trump in reaffirming that commitment and had worked
in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the
speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode.
One source telling “Politico”, there was a fully coordinated other speech
everybody else worked on and it wasn`t the one Trump gave.
Another source adding Trump`s top national security team, quote, didn`t
know that section had been removed. It was only upon delivery.
And it sure doesn`t help that two of the people who reportedly did tried to
persuade Trump to reaffirm that commitment, right now, they`re in
Australia, helping clean up the diplomatic mess Trump began when he and the
Australian prime minister got into it during that testy phone call
immediately following the inauguration. This is not just about a
reluctance to play well with others. Some of this is just open hostility
with our allies coming directly from the president himself. On Twitter, on
the phone, in person and in direct opposition to the advice from his
So, what are we supposed take away from all of this?
Joining us now is Laura Kennedy, a former career diplomat with almost four
decades of experience who`s worked both with Republican and Democratic
presidents over the years. And Ambassador Kennedy is the former ambassador
to Turkmenistan and former deputy assistant secretary of state for European
and Eurasian affairs.
And, Ambassador Kennedy, thank you for some of your time tonight.
LAURA KENNEDY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN
AFFAIRS: Look, thank you for having me.
REID: Thank you.
And I want to start by asking you to do a damage assessment for us just on
the last part of what I talked about which is our standing, the United
States` standing, in the international community. How much damage do you
think that Donald Trump has done through that trip not reaffirming Article
5 and just his general attitude towards our allies so far?
KENNEDY: Well, the failure to not only to reiterate our Article 5
commitments to allies that stood with us since September 11th who have
given lives of thousands of their own soldiers was shocking. What is
equally shocking, what you just mentioned, the fact that the credibility of
our senior officials, secretary of defense, national security advisor,
secretary of state were directly undermined by the fact that they thought
this commitment would be in his speech, and it wasn`t.
So, again, how do they perform their role and have our allies and partners
and other – and indeed opponents if, again, predictability and credibility
is undermined this way.
REID: Well, when our allies around the world sort of talked to the United
States, the interlocutors as you said, are often the secretary of state in
this case, H.R. McMaster, is the national security adviser, if they`re not
seen as close enough to the president to be influential over him, what`s
the real world consequence of that?
KENNEDY: I think incoherence which is very, very damaging. We do live, as
you know, in an extremely difficult and challenging world. So, our
commitments have to mean something if we will be able to maintain what was
one of our greatest strengths, a worldwide network of partners and allies.
President Trump says he wants to defeat ISIS. I agree. How do you do that
if you don`t have the network of partners and allies, not just militarily,
but for law enforcement, sharing of information, intelligence sharing? And
it is doing I think real damage when he deliberately insults and pushes
away one of our greatest resources, our allies around the world.
REID: I`m interested also in getting your take on Donald Trump`s response
to the attacks in England. They had three terrorist attacks in recent
weeks. And the most recent case, Donald Trump went on Twitter and went on
a tirade against the London mayor.
What does that kind of thing do to our relationships with our allies or is
that just sort of a news cycle that doesn`t in the end affect policy?
KENNEDY: It is – it is just inexplicable to me. The British have
suffered, you know, these recent attacks. They are our friends and allies.
And to say anything other than we`re with you, we grieve with you, we stand
with you is just betraying our own values as well as one of our closest
allies. Inexplicable and yes, damaging.
REID: And just lastly, is there a sense in which maybe in Europe and our
allies, who don`t feel it depends on the United States, you know, as some
of them said, don`t feel like they can`t count on us, in a way, could that
make Europe stronger, make the E.U. more independent, make the more
dependent actors and take more responsibility for their own affairs?
KENNEDY: Well, I mean, certainly, they will step up, what they have to do,
but we will, they will lose and we will lose if we are not able to maintain
a great strength which is cooperation. We desperately need that in today`s
word to defeat ISIS, to deal with challenges like nonproliferation as we
did successfully with the Iran deal. We now have North Korea, to deal with
threats like pandemics, like the environmental crises we face.
We`ve got to have our friends and allies to work with.
REID: Yes, or climate change.
Ambassador Laura Kennedy, former deputy assistant secretary of state –
thank you so much for joining us tonight.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
REID: Thank you.
And now, it certainly feels like we`re in a very uncharted sort of
territory in terms of our country`s standing in the world stage. But is
that really the case? What can we learn from past administrations and what
can it tell us about where we`re headed?
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, great to talk to you. Always a treat to talk to you.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, same here, Joy.
REID: So, we started off with this story of Richard Nixon at this sort of
moment when he`s deteriorating, when his aides see this happening and you
have his defense secretary and his cabinet sort of step in and go to the
joint chiefs and say, if he gives an order that seems odd or it seems like
he`s using the military in this last desperate moment, come to me first.
Come to us first.
We know that`s unprecedented. Do you see in the administration you`re
looking at now a Mr. Schlesinger? Do you see anyone in the administration
that seems like they could play the role of intervening to put the
president back on course if he were to go off course?
BESCHLOSS: Well, this is what`s so shocking about that story of Susan
Glasser`s in “Politico” about the fact that Donald Trump didn`t give the
speech that his advisers thought he was going to give.
You know, during Watergate, Joy, Henry Kissinger, his national security
adviser and security of state, and Al Haig, Nixon`s chief of staff, felt
they were keeping things steady although as you rightly say, Nixon was
drinking to some extent. He was not in a great mental state. And
Kissinger later said, Al Haig saved the country and I saved the world.
Now, with Donald Trump, you and I have both heard people say Donald Trump
may be unpredictable and mercurial may be in a scary way in national
security, but it`s got this great national security staff, Tillerson and
McMaster and Mattis, and that staff is not too helpful if they can`t manage
to get the guy to give a speech endorsing Article 5 that they all expected
him to give.
REID: Yes. And I think back to the George W. Bush administration when it
was seen that perhaps the president was sort of waking up to the fact that
the Iraqi invasion, he had been sold some information that wasn`t accurate
and his presidency felt shaky, he brought in Jim Baker who was this sort of
mercurial figure in the Republican Party. He was able to bring in, in
their mind, to right the ship. You think of David Gergen that could come
in in a Clinton administration.
Is there a figure in and around the administration now or maybe in
Republican politics that could play that kind of a role with somebody like
BESCHLOSS: No. I don`t think there is one at this point because, you
know, Tillerson and Mattis and McMaster, these are three very tough guys,
and if they cannot manage to keep him on track, I don`t know who else can.
And this is also in the context of those tweets this morning where
President Trump is complaining about the action by his Justice Department
on the travel ban, the Justice Department works for him. So, this suggests
a president who is really straining at the edge of his leash and to some
extent out of control.
And this is very unnerving especially in national security.
REID: Is there anything in sort of U.S. history that sort of equates to
the situation we have? Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, who
“Politico” report is sort of cloistered with his two aides, doesn`t talk to
a lot of people, where you have the son-in-law who`s embroiled in his own
controversies, that`s supposed to be kind of watching the president`s back.
We have all these figures around the president who themselves seem isolated
from good advice.
BESCHLOSS: No, this is – I hate to say it, but this is dangerous.
National security is serious. This is to some extent amateur hour. You`ve
got a president who`s not able to have a staff who is able to keep him on
track at least by what we`ve seen during the last week, and that can be
dangerous. At the same time, you know, even just as recently as February,
the president`s aides, Steve Miller went on the shows and said the
president`s powers and national security are very considerable and will not
That`s not the kind of thing that makes us calm.
REID: Yes. And, lastly, you know, there`s been a lot of talk about Reince
Priebus and his lack of influence. Typically, do chiefs of staff – are
they drawn from a sort of pool of people who are dependent on the president
or that have some independents to be able to tell the president hard
truths? And so, is he unusual sort of in history?
BESCHLOSS: He is, because you`re absolutely right. You want a chief of
staff with the stature to be able to say to the president here`s something
you`re not going to want to hear, and if you`re angry at me and fire me,
that`s fine. Jim Baker had that under Ronald Reagan. Al Haig had that
during the last year under Richard Nixon. He had some independent stature
of his own and was able to keep Nixon from doing some things that could
have been dangerous things.
You know, if you go by this incident with Article 5 and the failure to give
that speech, you know, it`s hard to see that this staff is doing that with
REID: Yes, not good news.
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian – thanks as always.
It`s always great talking to you. Thank you for putting all the time.
BESCHLOSS: I wish I could have been a little bit more calming tonight,
REID: It`s OK. We like you to keep it real. Thank you very much.
BESCHLOSS: OK, thank you. Doing my best.
And up next, a report on that top secret NSA document that was leaked to
the press and the news tonight that the alleged leaker has been arrested.
Plus, the president got a rather interesting job offer today, and I`ll
Stay with us.
REID: For months, U.S. intelligence officials have been very clear on one
key pointed related to Russian efforts to interfere in our election. No
election results were ever compromised.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DNI: They did not change any vote tallies or
anything of that sort.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: We have no evidence that vote tallies were
altered or manipulated in any way?
CLAPPER: That`s correct.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: So, you have no intelligence that
suggests or evidence that suggests any votes were changed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing generated by the National Security
NUNES: Director Comey, do you have evidence at the FBI that any votes were
changed in the states that I mentioned to Admiral Rogers?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: This afternoon, “The Intercept” news site published the following
story. Top secret NSA report details Russian hacking effort days before
The five-page NSA report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated
further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood. “The
Intercept” says it obtained the May 5 top secret document with parts
redacted through an anonymous source.
In it, the U.S. signals intelligence agency concludes unequivocally that
Russian military intelligence otherwise known as the GRU, executed a cyber
attack against U.S. election software vendors in August of 2016. It then
used data gathered from that attack to send spear phishing e-mails to over
1,100 election officials just days before the election. The targeted
companies believed to be Florida based VR Systems which makes electronic
voting software used in eight states, California, Illinois, Indiana, West
Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and New York.
Now, to be clear, nowhere in the report does the NSA indicate any actual
voting machines or vote tallies were compromised. Rather than selling the
actual machines used to count the votes, VR Systems sells the software
which is used to determine who is eligible to vote. One U.S. intelligence
official contacted by “The Intercept” conceded that the Russian operation
outlined by the NSA targeting voting registration software could
potentially disrupted voting in the locations where VR Systems products
were being used.
The NSA report says it is unknown what potential data could have been
accessed and makes no conclusion about what effect the attack had on the
outcome of the election. But it does conclude definitively that Russian
military intelligence, the GRU, was behind the attack.
As we mentioned, the NSA document was leaked to “The Intercept”
anonymously. Nearly an hour after it was published this afternoon, the
Department of Justice announced it had arrested and charged a federal
government contractor with leaking the document, the very first criminal
charge in a leaked prosecution during the Trump administration.
Reality Leigh Winner, a 25 year old woman from Augusta, Georgia, was
charged with removing classified material from a government facility and
distributing it to a news outlet.
The FBI says when they approached Winner at her home Saturday, she admitted
to printing out a copy of the document, removing it from her place of work
and mailing it to “The Intercept”.
Now, joining us now is NBC News national security reporter Ken Dilanian.
Ken, great to see you.
So, let`s go through what we know and what we don`t know, because the big
question that was asked by a lot of Democrats during the campaign and
pointedly by Republicans in defense of Donald Trump was whether or not
Russian hacking actually flipped votes, changed votes in machines. That`s
not what this report is talking about, right?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: That`s right, Joy. I
think you laid it out really well. There`s nothing in this report, nothing
that we know that suggests any votes were changed.
But what`s – what I find really interesting about this report is that it
shows that the Russian hacking went on right up until the election, well
after the Obama administration warned the Russians to stop doing this, to
cut it out. And, you know, there`s been reports of high level warnings
from CIA Director John Brennan to his counterparts in the Russian
intelligence agency and the U.S. was mobilized and was well aware and was
very worried that bad things were going to happen on Election Day.
And so, it`s not really clear from this report whether it was an attempt to
make those things happen, but it`s pretty clear that the Russians were into
some systems that were close, if not to the vote, at least to the voter
registration files. And what folks I`ve talked to say could have happened
but didn`t thankfully but didn`t, thankfully, is they may have been able to
change voter identity en masse, so that you could have had situations where
people were showing up to the polls and every third voter found their
registration didn`t match and they weren`t allowed to vote. That could
have caused mass chaos and disruption.
Now, there was some disruption in North Carolina, for example, but there`s
nothing definitively linking it to this hack. And, you know, we – there
are just so many questions here, we just don`t know. And it`s an example
of some classified information that the U.S. possessed and hasn`t released
to the public yet about this.
REID: And that`s I think the point, Ken, and I think what will make people
nervous is you do have a situation where there was significantly reduced
voting in certain states where fewer than expected voters came out, I`m
thinking those big swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. We know about
this one attempt to do spear phishing attacks that as you said, could
delete people off the voting rolls. Meaning you show up to vote and you`re
no longer on the voting rolls, and it`s not as a result of a mistake or
voter suppression, it`s literally the result of a spear phishing attack.
Is there any reporting on whether or not the NSA believes that was more
widespread and that this is just the one they caught?
DILANIAN: The reporting that we have on that suggests that they don`t and
they`ve said as much in public. You know, this is one small intelligence
analysis report. It`s an interesting report. I`m glad we`re seeing it.
But it doesn`t contain any of the raw intelligence. And, for example,
anyone looking for proof that the Russians carried out this hack are not
going to find it in this report. This report expresses conclusions and
analysis from the NSA.
It is interesting that they say definitively in this report that it was the
GRU, Russia`s military intelligence unit. No caveats there. So, you know,
that`s a well-founded intelligence assessment in this report.
But no, to your larger point, you know, NSA Director Mike Rogers has
testified before Congress that he`s not aware of any larger effort that
would have caused disruption to the actual election.
REID: And you make a very good point there, because what we`ve been
talking about in terms of the Russian attacks on elections is sort of using
freelance hackers, using hacker collectives, using WikiLeaks and other
third parties. Is this the first report that we`re getting that links
directly back to the GRU or is this just adding to the evidence that this
attack on our election came right from the top?
DILANIAN: Well, you know, previous U.S. intelligence reports that have
been made public mentioned the GRU, but this one is more definitive. And,
you know, that would be based not on computer forensics, which Vladimir
Putin famously told Megyn Kelly can be spoof, and he`s right about that.
That`s based on signals intelligence and human intelligence, as we
understand it, you know, tracking this thing back to particular Russian
REID: Let`s talk about this arrest. How – do we have reporting or do you
have reporting on how they were able to zero in on the person who was
arrested, Ms. Winner?
DILANIAN: Yes, this is a really remarkable part of the story. You know,
they did it through basic forensics. She appeared to be rather careless.
She e-mailed over open email, according to the affidavit, with the news
site and then once – and she also printed out this document according to
the affidavit, again, though she did not have a need to see it. And they
can track all that within their systems.
We`re talking about a 25-year-old contractor here. The reason she was of
interest to the NSA and was employed there apparently was she was a former
Air Force linguist fluent in Dari and Pashto, which are the languages of
Afghanistan. So, very valuable in the NSA.
But 25 years old, had just gotten a top secret security clearance and it`s
another example how the NSA has a problem with leakers. This is like one
in a series of insiders. You never used to see this kind of thing happen
at the NSA. Once you got clearance over there, it was like a club. It was
a trusted circle. They`re seeing a lot of it now.
REID: Yes, one thinks of contractor Edward Snowden was one of those.
REID: That happened.
NBC`s national security reporter, Ken Dilanian – thank you very much.
DILANIAN: Good to be with you, Joy. Thanks.
REID: Thank you.
All right. And up next, we`re all awaiting testimony from former FBI
Director James Comey this week. But there`s another hearing on Capitol
Hill that could also shed light on the Russia investigation, and it`s one
that`s worth keeping an eye on.
REID: This is the Hart Senate Office Building. It houses about half of
the Senate and their staffs and also the occasional taxidermy. The stuff
moose was tough as truck into the Hart Building last year to New Hampshire
Senator Jeanne Shaheen`s office. As was this friendly looking bear. See?
I think he`s waving.
The poor staffers carted these big guys through the basement, crammed them
into the elevators and parked them right in the senator`s waiting room for
an event with their constituents. Tada!
Understandably, they turned a lot of heads. The comings and goings at the
Hart Senate Office Building are usually just, you know, people in suits
going about their business, and also stuffed bears.
But compared to what`s happening this week, that was tame. This Thursday,
fired FBI Director James Comey is set to give public testimony before the
Senate Intelligence Committee. It`s why they expected he will be asked
about thinks conversations with President Donald Trump, including those
allegations that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former
National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
There were questions about whether or not the White House would try to
block Comey from testifying by invoking executive privilege, essentially
arguing that the president has a right to confidentiality in his
conversations with Mr. Comey. Today, the Trump administration put those
questions to rest. The White House said the president will not block Mr.
Comey from testifying. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said
that even though the president`s right to executive privilege is well-
established, the administration wants a swift examination of the facts.
So, that means Mr. Comey ask free to speak his mind. You can pretty much
already smell the popcorn cooking in microwaves across the country. For
what`s expected to be the most watched political event since the 2016
But there`s something else happening this week worth staking pin in. Rod
Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is also expected to testify before
the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Now, it`s not about Russia, but you can bet Democrats on that panel will
ask him about it anyway. They could grill him on his role in Comey`s
firing – recall that he wrote that memo that was used to justify it – and
what he knows about Trump`s alleged interference in the Russia
It`s a pretty big deal, which is why it was so interesting to see this –
Rod Rosenstein spoke on the record with the “Associated Press” late Friday
night, sending an early warning through press that he and the Attorney
General Jefferson Sessions might also get tied up in the Russia
investigation that`s now charging full steam ahead. He told the “A.P.”
that since the special counsel reports to him, he would recuse himself if
he becomes part of the investigation, which is strange, right?
Why would the deputy attorney general say on the record to the press that
he might be next in the cross hairs of the Russia investigation? What game
is Rod Rosenstein playing? And what does it have to do with the ticking
time bomb that goes off on Thursday when James Comey takes the stand?
Joining us now is Matthew Miller, former chief spokesperson for the Justice
Matt, thank you for being here.
So, I`ll let you answer that question. What do you think Rod Rosenstein is
up to going on the record?
MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESPERSON FOR THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Yes,
it`s a great question, because as you pointed out, you know, this is Rod
Rosenstein`s first interview with the press since he was sworn into office.
And for him to come out and kind of publicly, you know, finger himself as a
possible subject of this investigation in his first interview is a strange
thing to do.
I suspect what he was doing was trying to take some heat off himself and
finding an excuse to not answer questions about the under – one of the
underlying scandals at DOJ. So, obviously, the big question at the hearing
that Comey appears on Thursday is going to be, what did the president say
to him about the Russia investigation? What kind of pressure did they put
But there`s a secondary potential scandal too, or secondary potential
scandal, which is, what did Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein know when they
signed off on James Comey`s firing, and if they knew that the president was
being firing him because he was unhappy about the Russia investigation and
they went along with it, you know, their positions are really untenable at
DOJ. It would be the biggest scandal in the department`s history.
And so, what I think you see Rosenstein doing is sending this public signal
that will probably see him do at the hearing on Wednesday and come up and
say, look, I know you have questions about whether I knew about this
whether Comey briefed me on his concerns, whether I saw his memos, whether
the president said anything to me. But because of this ongoing
investigation, I`m just not able to answer. And, you know, that would be a
dodge that really I think gets around Congress`s actual legitimate right to
know his role in this story.
REID: I mean, and I guess that is because obviously he was the author of
this memo. Does it matter if when he wrote up this memo, and he`d only
been in office, Rod Rosenstein, for a very short time, as acting – deputy
attorney general, did he need to have known that the firing was because of
Russia-gate? Or just that the president wanted a pretext to fire Jim
Comey, and so, he told them, write auto memo, give them a pretext? Are
both of those two things scandalous?
MILLER: You know, one is much worse than the other obviously. If he knew
it was over Russia, then that is much worse. That is a major scandal
because it shows the deputy attorney general, one of the people who`s
supposed to protect DOJ`s independents actually buckling and helping the
president trample on it.
If he just knew that the president wanted to fire him, that`s a bit less of
a scandal, but it`s hard to believe, even if he didn`t have direct
evidence, you know, even if he wasn`t aware of Comey`s conversations,
Comey`s concerns, Comey`s memos, it`s hard to believe that he went and had
this meeting, because remember, he and Sessions both met with the president
the day before the president fired Jim Comey.
And it`s hard to believe the president just said, you know, after long,
careful consideration I`m unhappy with the way Director Comey handled the
Clinton e-mail case and whatever else, and I`m going to fire him and then
he wrote that memo. It`s hard to see he didn`t really know what was going
REID: Yes. Let`s talk about Jim Comey and what – what do you expect to
hear from him? Is it – do you think that there will be anything new that
comes out of his testimony?
MILLER: You know, I think – well, obviously, he`s going to come in we
suspect and talk about his conversations with the president. And there are
– several of those conversations we know about already. But it`s been
reported that he kept memos about other conversations that we don`t know
the details of yet.
And I suspect, we won`t know, of course, until Thursday, but I suspect that
Jim Comey, who – whatever you think about him, he certainly has shown a
propensity to love the spotlight in the past, I suspect he might be saving
his biggest revelation for this hearing. And we may see some new bombs,
even worse than the ones we`ve already seen. And even if not, just adding
more details, something we saw in the Sally Yates hearing. We knew a lot
of what she planned to say but when she actually came in and fleshed out
the details, you know, kind of put, told exactly the things she had warned
the White House about, if we see Jim Comey come and add some more details
about his conversations with the president, really, it could be explosive.
And, by the way, remember that the president said point-blank that he did
not pressure Comey to fire Mike Flynn. If James Comey comes in, raises his
hand in the air, swears under oath and says on the record, under oath, that
that`s not true, that`s a difficult position for the president obviously
because it means he lied to the American people:
REID: Yes, might be a good time to buy stock in popcorn companies because
people are going to stock a lot of it for Thursday.
Matthew Miller, former chief spokesperson for the Justice Department –
thank you very much. Really appreciate your time.
MILLER: Thank you.
REID: Thank you.
And coming up, did the administration`s case for the Trump travel ban just
get a lot more difficult for them to argue within the last hour?
Stay with us.
REID: While we`re all waiting for James Comey to testify on Thursday
before the Senate Intelligence Committee, there`s something else to watch
right now that is going on inside that committee. It concerns the Senate
report on torture committed by Americans which was retched and written
under the old Democratic majority.
In late 2014, Democrats voted to release the unclassified 500-page redacted
summary. That you see here. It talks about the U.S. use of torture and
interrogating terrorism suspects after 9/11. The Democratic Senate also
sent copies of the full, nearly 7,000-page report to several government
agencies. And ever since Republicans got control of the Senate, the head
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr, has been asking
the agencies to return those copies to agreements he wants them out of the
executive branch back in congressional hands.
Now that we have a Republican president, the agencies have started to
comply. They`ve been sending their copies back to Congress. Senator Burr
tells “The New York Times”, the committee will, quote, enact necessary
measures to protect the sensitive sources and methods contained in the
What Senator Burr means by that is not entirely clear. But in the midst of
everything else going on in Washington, this story is also worth keeping an
Watch this space.
REID: After Donald Trump signed his executive order barring entry to the
U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim countries, there was chaos and protests
at the nation`s airports. And several federal judges blocked the order
within 48 hours. Once the administration began to realize it was going to
face a serious court fight, they rolled out a new strategy. They said the
travel ban was in fact not a ban. Even though the president and members of
his administration has been calling it a ban right up until that moment.
Now, in the face of these court rulings, it was no longer a ban. Sean
Spicer engaged in such acrobatic contortions to adapt to the new language,
his performance of that week launched Melissa McCarthy`s iconic impression
on “Saturday Night Live.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: It`s not a ban.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?
MCCARTHY: It`s not a ban. The travel ban is not a ban, which makes it not
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tweeted, and I quote, if the ban were
announced with a one-week notice –
MCCARTHY: Yes, exactly. You just said that. He`s quoting you. It`s your
words. He`s using your words when you use the words and he uses them back,
it`s circular using of the word, and that`s from you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That`s pretty much how it went.
The administration drafted a whole new executive order to replace the one
that kept getting blocked. The new one band travel from six countries
instead of seven, but the courts were unmoved from a Hawaii judge`s ruling
in march, quote, by the government`s reading the executive order could not
have been religiously motivated because the six countries represent only a
small fraction of the world`s Muslim majority nations.
The logic of the government`s contentions is palpable. The notion that one
can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of
them at once is fundamentally flawed. It is a discriminatory purpose that
matters no matter how inefficient the execution. Ouch.
But the Trump administration has stuck with it. As recently as a week ago,
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was reiterating, quote, it`s not a
travel ban. Remember, it`s a travel pause. And this is not just a PR move
by the Trump administration. This stance is important legally. The judges
who blocked the Muslim ban have all said the context matters, that all
things that Donald Trump and his campaign and this administration have said
from his call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the
United States on down, all those statements made it clear the executive
order really is a Muslim ban.
And so, to have a credible case in court, the administration has to try to
change that context. They have to show that they didn`t intend for it to
be a ban. And that – well, that may not be very convincing. It may be a
little bit too late. But they were doing it. They were staying more or
less on message for the last couple months, until now.
Here was Donald Trump, president, on Twitter this morning, quote: People
and the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want. But I`m
calling it what we need and what it is, a travel ban.
And then: The Justice Department should have stayed with the original
travel ban, not the watered down politically correct version they submitted
to the Supreme Court.
And now, just a few minutes ago, this: That`s right. We need a, all caps,
travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct
term that won`t help us protect our people, exclamation point.
And if you`re a regular viewer of this program, you know that THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW does not usually cover Trump`s tweets very much, but these
tweets may have legal consequences.
Here`s how the lawyer fighting the Muslim ban at the Ninth Circuit of
Appeals responded. Neal Katyal tweeted, quote: It`s kind of odd to have
the defendant in our case acting as our co-counsel. We don`t need the
help, but we`ll take it.
He then wondered whether he should just hand the court lectern over to
Trump, quote, to make the case for us.
A week ago, when Trump was returning from his trip abroad, there were
reportedly plans afoot to have lawyers vet all the president`s tweets
before he sent them out. Guess that didn`t work.
And even as the president makes it harder to defend the Muslim ban, the
Supreme Court and even some Republicans are starting to wonder why the
administration is still pursuing the ban at all. It was only supposed to
last 90 days the administration wanted to use that time to put new extreme
vetting procedures into place.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt and Mark Warner, both on the Intelligence
Committee, pointed out this weekend on the shows that the White House has
had much longer than 90 days to come up with the procedures. So, at this
point what`s the point of having a ban at all?
Joining us is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general, who argued
against Trump`s travel ban on behalf of the state of Hawaii before the
Thank you for joining us, Neal. Thanks for being here.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thanks, Joy.
REID: So, let`s talk about why does it matter whether or not Donald Trump
up until within the hour keeps tweeting it`s a travel ban? Why does that
help your case?
KATYAL: Yes. So, I think we need to be sanguine about it. I mean, there
is no gloating on our team or among the challengers for what the president
said today. I mean, I think we all have to first keep in mind the
extraordinary thing that`s happened. I mean, the president of the United
States is accused of violating really our most sacred texts, the First
Amendment, no establishment of religion.
And he`s – and those challenges have been upheld by court after held
saying, President Trump, you violated the Constitution. And now, these
tweets essentially gut what his lawyers were saying in trying to defend
him. And so, it`s really undercut the rational for ban, the rationale for
the whole legal defense. And it`s a real problem.
REID: And isn`t it the case in the dissent on the rulings that have all
gone in your favor, in favor of those who opposed this travel ban, the
dissents have said that it is unfair to take the president`s campaign
rhetoric into account when you`re trying to decide what he is doing as
Do these tweets now that he is actually president essentially negate that
argument by the dissenters?
KATYAL: Yes, absolutely. So, there is a handful of judges who have ruled
in favor of President Trump, rarely with any kind of controlling power.
They`ve always been in the minority or dissenting judges. But what they`ve
said is campaign statements like the ones he said, quote, I`m calling for a
total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, and
quote, I think Islam hates us. We can`t allow people coming to this
country that hate the United States.
They base the lawyers for the Justice Department said that`s the old Trump.
The new Trump is different. But the tweets really I think gut that kind of
argument and make it very clear that, you know, that the president has sunk
his own ship.
REID: So, the White House is down to fewer and fewer people that they`re
willing to send out to speak for him. But two they sent out today,
Kellyanne Conway and Sebastian Gorka, they were making two sets of
arguments. On Kellyanne Conway, I`ll let you take them one at a time.
Kellyanne Conway`s argument that you really can`t read what the president
says on Twitter. It is not relevant.
What do you make of that?
KATYAL: Well, that`s an extraordinary statement for anyone at the White
House to make. Don`t trust the president in what he says in tweets. That
just seems bizarre to me.
I guess I defer to her husband, George Conway, who tweeted today and said
the president`s tweets are really undermining the case in the court,
including the U.S. Supreme Court. And I`m not going to predict the outcome
at all. You know, that`s something for the courts to decide. But I think
this is an extraordinary, extraordinary thing that`s happened today.
REID: And argument too which has been made by Sebastian Gorka is that you
can`t call it a Muslim travel ban because the ban does not delude world`s
most populous Muslim countries, nor does it include the most populous Arab
country, Egypt. So that if you don`t ban all of the Muslims from all of
the Muslim countries, that you can`t say it`s a Muslim ban. What do you
make of that?
KATYAL: That`s just a terrible, terrible argument. If I`m an employer and
have I ten African-American employees and I fire one because and say I`m
firing you because you`re African American, I don`t think it`s a defense to
say, well, you know, the other nine weren`t fired. So it can`t be on the
basis of race. That`s just ludicrous.
And indeed, Sebastian Gorka in that interview again gutted the Justice
Department`s rationale. He said the old ban is just like the new ban.
It`s the exact same policy. That`s what he said today in a CNN interview.
REID: And would part of the argument be the original argument made by the
administration was, well, this is temporary. We just need 90 days of this
travel ban in order to get ourselves together and do extreme vetting.
Does the fact that the 90 days have long since expired, does that become
KATYAL: Totally, totally. The Justice Department has been saying we need
90 days for extreme vetting, extreme vetting and so on. One tweet, you
didn`t read today that the president said this, quote: In any event, we are
extreme vetting people coming into the United States in order to keep our
country safe. The courts are slow and political.
So, the very thing he has wanted to do through the executive order, he is
admitting in the tweet he has done, which is just thoroughly bizarre. And
I guess one last thing about that quote. The last lines of that tweet are
the courts are slow and political.
And this president, it`s so sad. Every single time he loses, he attacks
the judge. He calls him a so-called judge. He calls them political, time
You know, I can`t think of something more corrosive to our democracy than
the idea that a fundamental check and balance that Madison and Hamilton and
Jefferson laced into the Constitution, this idea about judges being the
independent bulwark to protect limited government is something that a
president could attack in this way. I mean, it is truly sad with an
exclamation point at the end of it.
REID: And the other entity that Trump seemed to be attacking in his tweets
is his own Justice Department have. You ever seen a situation where the
president who is their boss is essentially attacking an organization which
reports to him and which could make any arguments he wanted?
KATYAL: I have not. And indeed, I used to hold for President Obama, you
know, one of the top position, litigating position, the acting solicitor
general. And so, I`ve never seen anything like that. And again, I think
that`s a fundamental thing that courts are going to have to look at because
the Justice Department is defending this on the idea there is a presumption
of regularity that you should presume what the president does is correct.
And here is what Jack Goldsmith, a very conservative Harvard professor said
today after the tweets. He said, quote, Trump`s actions take us so far
beyond normal, it`s hard to have any faith in the executive branch. In the
last month alone, he has told lies, fired Comey, related a Russia probe and
re-attacked courts. Given the president`s instability, it`s not just
courts that have reason to relax the presumption of irregularity for this
president. The impulsive, uncontrolled, ill informed president infects the
legal soundness of everything he does.
Last line: as best I can tell, no president`s action have ever so adversely
affected trust in his administration including Nixon during Watergate.
KATYAL: That is conservative law professor Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law
REID: Wow, wow.
Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general, and a partner at Hogan
Lovells, which was arguing against the president`s travel ban in court –
wow, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
KATYAL: Thank you. Great to be here.
REID: Thank you.
Still ahead here tonight, the mayor of London made a very pointed request
tonight. And that`s next.
REID: We have an update to a story we were talking about earlier in the
show. Tonight, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is calling on the British
government to cancel a planned state visit to the U.K. by U.S. President
This comes after Trump`s swift criticism of the mayor following this
weekend`s terrorist attack in London which left seven dead and dozens
injured. Following that horrific attack, the president was quick to
denigrate London`s mayor, Mr. Khan. At one point, misquoting his appeal
for calm amid a heightened police presence.
The mayor`s office pointed out that mistake. But Trump responded by
calling the mayor`s statement a, quote, pathetic excuse.
Appearing on a British news channel tonight, Mayor Khan said the U.S.
president should no longer be welcome in the country. He said, quote: I
don`t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA
in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for.
When you have a special relationship, it is no different from when you`ve
got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity, but you call
them out when they`re wrong. There are many things about which Donald
Trump is wrong.
A reminder, this is one of our closest allies. We`re now living in very
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back very soon. I mean it.
And now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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